Olu Yomi Ososanya
Cinema has always been a unique platform of communication since its inception. Early on, it was used quite well by dictators who realized its power for propaganda, and used it to influence the hearts and minds of the people. For example, from “Triumph of the Will” to “Why We fight”, each went beyond entertainment and played a huge role in how WWII turned out.
Hollywood studio filmmaking would go on to fictionalize various significant periods in American and European History - from the American Revolution to the Vietnam War, as well as biopics on significant historical figures. Some were pure entertainment, a few satirical, others shining a light on those decisions which demand answers for the questions they inspire.
For Africa, many of its stories have been told by non-Africans and, many of its historical figures played by Americans; Steve Biko, various incarnations of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and Idi Amin, notably. It's all quite humorous when you consider the wave-making rant by Samuel L. Jackson recently, about British actors playing Americans; but that’s another matter.
With its very colourful history, there is an abundance of stories about Nigeria’s past. Just starting from its 1960 independence, to the end of military rule in 1999, there were coups, regimes, assassinations, a civil war and so much politicking and back-stabbing. If you thought "The Last King of Scotland" was fascinating, there are some former Heads of State of Nigeria you’d really want to see on the big screen.
Other than being potentially entertaining, these stories are important because, in the last 30+ years, history has been missing from the Nigerian school curriculum, and books; meaning that most of the MTV generation, not to talk of millennials, know next to nothing about the generations that came before them; nothing about the Nigerian civil war, the coups, instigators, etc, as well as the tragedy and horror that dangerous decisions, tribalism and ideology brought. Sadly, putting these stories on film may be the only way many will learn their history, and who the players were.
One hurdle may be that many of the aforementioned key players are still alive, very rich, powerful and influential - enough to pull strings and affect outcomes. An already noticeable danger in these stories remaining hidden is that some (even the younger generation) are already espousing and preaching the exact same dangerous ideologies that took many lives and destroyed a nation in decades past. They are influenced by sentiments and half-truths, not knowing the full picture; they seek a vendetta of which they know little.
Godard said, “Cinema is truth 24 frames a second”; we need to tell these stories on film before Nigerians are forced to relive ugly parts of our history.
Below, take a look at how Nigerian film and Nigerian History need to meet and make babies: